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Alex Murdaugh's Attorneys Hope To Exclude Testimony From Blood Spatter Expert
In a lengthy motion to the judge, Alex Murdaugh's attorneys questioned a state blood spatter expert's credential, methods and changing opinion while asking the judge to prohibit his testimony in the trial, slated to begin Monday.
Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys are hoping to prohibit testimony from a state blood splatter expert, arguing the expert used “weird at-home science fair experiments” to construct his opinion.
The motion, obtained by Oxygen.com, asks the court to prohibit the testimony of Tom Bevel as a sanction for prosecutors allegedly violating a court-ordered discovery ruling in December.
They asked the court to prevent “offering at trial any testimony regarding blood splatter from Tom Bevel, any other principal, associate, or employee of Bevel, Garner & Associates, LLC, or any officer of the State or other person whose opinion derives from review of Mr. Bevel’s work product.”
Bevel’s analysis centers on the white T-shirt that Murdaugh was wearing the night his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul 22, were killed on the family’s Colleton County property. The bodies were discovered June 7, 2021 near the dog kennels on the property after both had been shot to death.
Murdaugh has been charged with murdering his wife and son. He has pleaded not guilty to the allegations against him, arguing through his attorneys that investigators were singularly focused on him from the time of the murders and ignored other possible suspects or evidence in the case.
His attorneys are now hoping to exclude the blood expert’s testimony after questioning his methods, credentials and changing opinion in the case.
Both Maggie and Paul’s DNA were found on cuttings taken from the T-shirt, but Murdaugh’s attorneys have argued that any DNA or blood found on the shirt likely occurred after Murdaugh discovered the bodies and attempted to render aid.
Prosecutors contend, however, that the shirt also contained blood spatter, suggesting that Murdaugh had been the shooter that night.
To support their opinion, they have relied on a second report from Bevel that found “100+ stains are consistent with spatter on the front of the T-shirt.”
Murdaugh’s attorneys have alleged in their latest motion that tests done to confirm the presence of human blood on the T-shirt concluded in August of 2021 that no human blood could be found.
“Every cutting from the shirt tested negative for human blood,” they wrote.
Despite the finding, Murdaugh’s attorneys say the state still requested Bevel analyze the T-shirt.
“SLED retained Mr. Bevel to opine that T-shirt is stained with high-velocity blood spatter that could only come from being in proximity with them at the time of their murders,” the motion reads. “It did so even though the State knew on August 10, 2021–almost six weeks before first reaching out to Mr. Bevel on September 21st–that confirmatory blood test results were definitively negative for human blood in all areas of the shirt where purported spatter is present.”
The T-shirt in question was allegedly destroyed in July 2021 after what defense attorneys claim was the “unnecessary application of an oxidizing chemical stain” used to detect blood stains turned the shirt purple, making it impossible to have the defense’s own expert re-examine the clothing item.
Bevel has said in a supplemental report that use of the LCV solution on the shirt also meant that the blood-presence test the state later used would fail to detect human blood once it had been compromised by the chemical.
In his initial report, Bevel concluded that there was “no high-velocity blood spatter on the shirt” and wrote that he believed the stains on the shirt had been from transfers. The report also noted that he would expect “little to no spatter” to be on the shooter or his clothing.
But after looking at the evidence a second time and meeting with SLED investigators, Murdaugh’s attorneys alleged that Bevel decided to “fabricate evidence” and change his opinion after examining the deeply damaged shirt in person and requesting more photos.
This time, he concluded that there was “abundant spatter” on the shirt.
Bevel told investigators however that his opinion changed because he was able to get a closer look at the evidence with an increased number of images and used Photoshop to enhance “the blue and dark spots on the white background.”
“This produced over 100 stains with distribution and sized that are consistent with mist sized spatter from a gunshot,” he wrote.
The second report also removed his conclusion that there would be “little to no spatter on the shooter.”
Instead, Bevel concluded that the “shooter is certainly in close enough range to get spatter on their clothing,” according to the motion.
When questions began to emerge about Bevel’s testimony in December of 2022, Murdaugh’s attorneys allege that Bevel conducted a weekend “science fair” experiment in his own “garage or other room in his house” to examine LCV’s impact on blood-presence tests, which he then used to craft his supplemental report.
Murdaugh’s legal team also questioned Bevel’s credentials in the lengthy 63-page motion, arguing that he was a “retired Oklahoma City police officer with no credentials in any scientific discipline.”
They also allege that Bevel and the state failed to produce all copies of “written or recorded communication” between Bevel and the state, violating the court order.
Robert Kittle, the communications director for the South Carolina Office of The Attorney General, declined to discuss the allegations to Oxygen.com. "As is our policy, we will answer only in court or through our court filings," Kittle said.
In addition to the murder charges, Murdaugh is also facing 99 charges laid out in 19 different indictments accusing him of schemes to defraud his former law firm, clients and others of nearly $8.8 million in a years-long deception.
Prosecutors believe Murdaugh killed Maggie and Paul to cover up the financial crimes as he feared his alleged misdeeds were about to come to light.
“Ultimately, the murders served as Murdaugh’s means to shift the focus away from himself and buy himself some additional time to try and prevent his financial crimes from being uncovered, which — if revealed — would have resulted in personal, legal, and financial ruin for Murdaugh,” Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Creighton Waters wrote in the motion previously obtained by Oxygen.com.
Murdaugh’s murder trial is set to begin on Monday.